Rolling Stones songs: Hang Fire
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
We’ve got nothing to eat/We’ve got nowhere to work/ Nothing to drink/ We just lost our shirts…
Also known as: Lazy Bitch
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Jan. 5-March 2 1978; June 10-Oct. 19 1979
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This song is a swipe at The Stones’ home country of England. They imply that the people are lazy and the politicians incompetent. The Stones rarely performed in England because of the huge taxes that were levied on entertainers; it was much more profitable for them to live and work elsewhere.
A “hang fire” is a delay from when a trigger is pulled on a flintlock gun and when it actually fires. The expression means a delayed response, but in this song could apply to the lazy people who won’t take action. It’s also a great phrase to sing, which Mick Jagger does a few different ways throughout the song, sometimes stretching out “fire,” and other times keeping it contained.
The Stones first recorded the track in 1978 at the Some Girls sessions. Lyrics were added and it was repackaged for Tattoo You.
The original title was “Lazy Bitch,” probably referring to British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
In the UK, “Hang Fire” wasn’t released as a single, but in America it was the third single from the Tattoo You album, which hung around for a while. The song peaked at #20 in May 1982, 10 months after the album was released.
MTV launched on August 1, 1981, giving The Rolling Stones instant access to a new audience in America. They were ready, having made several videos (known as “promotional films” back in the day) already with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who returned to helm the Tattoo You videos. “Start Me Up” was the first in the set, showing the band performing the song on an empty set. This was typical, as Lindsay-Hogg kept the focus on the band, which were adept performers with a lead singer who could pull focus. “Hang Fire” had a similar look, but with posters of the album artwork adorning the set. These low-budget videos did very well on MTV, which was thrilled to have The Stones in rotation.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The Stones began to record “Hang Fire” during the Some Girls sessions
between October and December 1977, but Mick Jagger did not add the
words until 1979. These lyrics are a scathing indictment of a Britain bogged
down in economic crisis, a country in which nobody ever works because
there is nowhere to work. The sardonic humor reaches its climax when
Jagger sings I’m a lazy slob. His aim was presumably to castigate the
policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1979. We just lost our shirts, he
belches, and, faced with the triumphant employers: We ain’t for hire. “Hang
Fire” was released as a single (with “Neighbours” as the B-side) and
reached number 20 on the Billboard chart on May 8, 1982.
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